America’s Center for the National Interest warned on Wednesday that North Korea could bring the US to its knees, without ever firing directly on US soil. Director of Defense Studies Harry Kazianis said an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack would be able to overload and destroy electrical networks, fry circuit boards and efficiently bring the US economy to a standstill in seconds. He warned that an EMP attack would carry the power of an atomic device and would have catastrophic consequences.

After testing yet another missile on Sunday, North Korea boasted of its new bomb calling it “a multi-functional thermonuclear nuke with great destructive power, which can be detonated even at high altitudes for a super-powerful EMP attack.” It was not the first time that North Korea’s threats had hit home for the US.

Former Director of the CIA, James Woolsey said that if North Korea carried out such a plan, it would bring the United States “to a cold, dark halt.” Mr. Kazianis predicted that millions could die, depending on where the nuclear device was targeted. He also reminded that the radioactive fallout would have long lasting and possibly, deadly consequences, as it spread throughout the atmosphere and oceans.

Crippling effects

Analysts have warned that North Korea has the capability to annihilate America’s electrical grid. All Kim Jong-Un would need to do is to create an EMP by detonating a high altitude hydrogen bomb. That would destroy key US infrastructure including electronic devices of varying capacities not only in the US but parts of Canada and Mexico as well.

In satellite launches in 2012 and 2016, North Korea demonstrated its ability to reach such distances.

Retired Air Force Colonel John Gilbert says nearly everyone could be at risk and life as they know it, would change forever, if not, end completely. He warns that an EMP would seriously damage television, the Internet, and mobile phone providers.

Communication would be cut, and cars and trucks could also be damaged. Air control and GPS systems would be fried, along with electronic devices in homes and businesses. Health care and traffic facilities would also be crippled, as well as basic utilities used nationwide.

Is anything being done to protect the United States?

Congress appointed an EMP Commission in 2008, which warned that an EMP attack could leave the US without power for up to a year.

This was based on the fact that motion sensors which work to restart electronics after electricity outages would have also been destroyed. The Commission noted that protection measures needed to be put in place to protect the US from calamitous happenings. As of 2016, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) lamented that the federal government had failed to implement any recommendations they had made. As of September 2017, there is still no confirmation on a key, “coordinated approach to identifying and implementing key risk management activities, to address EMP risks.”